Fortify breast milk with vitamin D

  • By Barbara Quinn The Monterey County Herald
  • Sunday, May 25, 2014 9:30pm
  • Life

As if I needed more proof that she is the perfect granddaughter, Frances held up her child-sized spoon as she finished my homemade granola this morning and asked, “More?”

Her 2-week-old brother is perfectly fine with Mommie’s milk.

Smart kid. The American Academy of Pediatrics recently reaffirmed its recommendation that breast milk be babies’ exclusive food for the first six months of life. From 6 to 12 months of age, infants do best when fed breast milk plus baby-appropriate solid foods.

What’s makes human milk so perfect for human babies? Besides convenient nutrition that adjusts to an infant’s growing needs, breast milk offers protection against respiratory illnesses, ear infections, digestive problems and allergies.

Breastfed infants are less at risk for sudden infant death syndrome and they are less likely to become obese as they grow older, the pediatric association reported.

So why does baby Logan’s doctor recommend his daily nursings be supplemented with vitamin D? Because this one nutrient may not be adequately supplied in human milk, experts say.

Beginning in the first few days of life, all infants and children should consume 400 International Units (IU) of vitamin D, the pediatric association says. One liter of human milk (the amount a baby might consume in a day) supplies about 25 IU of this vitamin. Baby’s skin can synthesize additional vitamin D when exposed to sunlight, but this is not a common occurrence in our modern age.

Adequate vitamin D is crucial for infants during this time of rapid growth, experts say. Vitamin D helps young bodies absorb calcium — the primary mineral in bones and teeth. When vitamin D is deficient, bones become soft, thin, and brittle, a condition called rickets.

Vitamin D also helps muscles move and nerves to function. And it assists the immune system to fight off bacteria and viruses, according to the National Institutes of Health Office of Dietary Supplements.

Recent studies have found that some breastfed babies do not get adequate vitamin D. Children most at risk, according to the Centers for Disease Control, live in areas with limited sunlight, dense cloud cover or heavy pollution. And while sunscreen protects young skin, it also blocks the synthesis of vitamin D.

So Logan gets a small droplet of liquid vitamin D along with his mom’s milk every day. When he is older, he can get vitamin D from milk and other vitamin D fortified foods in his diet.

And like his 2-year-old sister, I suspect he’ll get some additional vitamin D when he’s old enough to go outside to play with Grammy. That would be just perfect.

Barbara Quinn is a registered dietitian and certified diabetes educator at the Community Hospital of the Monterey Peninsula.

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